COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford took dozens of undisclosed flights on private planes since taking office in 2003 despite a state law requiring him to report who paid for the travel, an Associated Press investigation has found.
The AP discovered 35 flights Sanford took on private planes that he did not list on state ethics forms or campaign reports. The flights are noted on Sanford's official calendars, obtained by the AP through a Freedom of Information request.
State law requires elected officials to disclose gifts received in a day worth $25 or more and "anything of value" over the course of a year worth at least $200 "if there is reason to believe the donor would not give the thing of value" but for the public official's position.
Sanford, under scrutiny since announcing an affair with an Argentine mistress, didn't report the flights because the trips were paid for by friends or political groups, spokesman Ben Fox said. "That was our standard operating procedure," he said.
However, state ethics officials said Sanford should report all use of private planes, even if friends pick up the tab, just as any other public official is required to do.
Sanford used the private planes, including some owned by supporters, to fly around the state for political functions, to attend sporting events with supporters and, at times, to go on vacation with his family, the calendars show.
Sanford has argued that his critics have misinterpreted state law.
He has said he has gone out of his way to save the state money on his travels and to uphold the law.